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Ecuador

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Ecuador

International Expeditions invites you to tour Ecuador on our new 10-day journey into the astounding biodiversity, rich cultural heritage and wild beauty of this small country. Under the care of our seasoned naturalist guides, search for a variety of birdlife in the protected reserves and hike deep into the mysterious, lush cloud forest. Stroll past Colonial churches and former haunts of the Inca and Cañari before indulging yourself in steaming tropical hot springs at Papallacta. This comprehensive itinerary combines culture, nature, adventure and relaxation all within the inspiring confines of Ecuador.

Ecuador’s Best Wildlife

IE’s new Ecuador tour travels through a variety of ecosystems, including mangroves, dry forest, cloud forest and the lush Amazon rainforest. As you explore these premier wildlife areas and protected habitats, watch for horned screamer, chestnut-fronted macaw, black-headed parrot, blue-crowned trogon and glowing puffleg. Plus, you may also spot pink freshwater dolphin, giant otter and monk saki.

Savor Colonial Cities

Explore Cuenca the “Athens” of Ecuador’s southern sierra, where cobblestone streets lead you past neo-gothic cathedrals and Inca plazas to quaint shops where local artisans create Panama hats, jewelry and ceramics. Quito’s famed Plaza de la Independence is the ideal place to soak up the colonial grandeur of fascinating baroque churches and convents, while just steps away the town divides into a sleek, modern area of contemporary architecture.

Daily Itinerary

Andes & Amazon Tour Itinerary

  • Day
    1

    Arrive Guayaquil, Ecuador

    Arrive Guayaquil, Ecuador

    Fly independently to Guayaquil and spend tonight at the Hotel Oro Verde. (Meals Aloft)

  • Day
    2

    Guayaquil / Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve / Cuenca

    Guayaquil / Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve / Cuenca

    Drive to the Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve just 25 miles from Guayaquil. The reserve encompasses two distinct ecosystems: mangrove and tropical dry forest. Mangrove swamps provide food, nesting and nursery areas for many animals, including fish, reptiles and amphibians, mammals, birds and young marine animals which we may observe during a boating excursion. The mangroves at Manglares-Churute contain natural salt flats that are popular feeding spots for a variety of shorebirds like the roseate spoonbill, osprey, egrets and laughing gulls. Surrounding these mangrove areas are dry areas of balsa and oak trees, home to orchids, bromeliads and the spectacular horned screamer. Continue to Cuenca and spend three nights at the Mansion Alcazar. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    3

    Cuenca: Cajas National Park

    Cuenca: Cajas National Park

    Drive into the Andes to Cajas National Park. Rolling paramo grasslands, wild quinoa, rosemary and over 150 species of birds such as the Andean condor and giant hummingbird characterize Cajas National Park. Journey through lush cattle land and past glittering streams to Tushipungo Valley. Explore a cloud forest trail along the shores of one of Cajas' 230 glacial lakes set in a deep valley surrounded by towering peaks. This afternoon, enjoy a walking tour of Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city. While strolling these streets, you can admire the traditional dress of the indigenous people — brightly colored skirts, Ikat scarves and straw hats, better known as the (wrongly named) Panama Hat. In the center of the city, which boasts a distinctive Spanish style with prominent French influences, the Incas inhabited the area now known as Cuenca and its surroundings, which at that time was populated by the Cañari people. You can still observe Inca ruins in the city and see an extension of the famed Inca Trail, which travels through Cuenca from Cusco, connecting the coast and the Amazon. When the Spanish arrived, different cultures merged and these changes are visible in every detail of the city. The churches, murals, stained glass, ceramics and weavings blend Spanish and indigenous skills. Staying in Cuenca is like a trip back in time, republican houses faithfully restored and artistically decorated with all the home comforts of the 19th century. (B,L)

  • Day
    4

    Cuenca: Coyoctor / Ingapirca / Cojitambo

    Cuenca: Coyoctor / Ingapirca / Cojitambo

    Drive to El Tambo, where we board a train traveling to Coyoctor. Along the way, enjoy the passing scenery as we pass potato and corn fields and small cattle farms. After arriving in Coyoctor, visit the Baths of the Inca, a recently restored Inca and Cañari archeological site. Drive to the most important archeological site in Ecuador, Ingapirca, a complex network of stone structures that surround a circular sun temple used by both the Inca and Cañari, constructed in the late 15th century. Here you may walk around the ruins, climb the stairs up to the temple and even sit where the Inca did during their ceremonies. On the way back to Cuenca stop in the small town of Cojitambo, an area which has been inhabited since 500 B.C. Drive to the top of a volcanic hill, where we look out across a fortified Inca complex perched above a picturesque valley. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    5

    Cuenca / Quito / Amazon

    Cuenca / Quito / Amazon

    Fly first to Quito to connect with a short flight to the Andes Mountains and the bustling oil town of Coca. We board boats for the two-hour journey down the Napo River to Sacha Lodge. A 30-minute hike through the rainforest leads us to Lake Pilchicocha. Here, we meet native workers to paddle you across the lake to the lodge. After dinner, accompany our naturalist guide on a night walk through the rainforest to view the hundreds of different species of animals that can only be found at night, or enjoy a canoe ride on the lake to view the spectacled and black caimans with their glowing orange eyes as you silently paddle across the lake to get a closer view. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    6

    Amazon: Yasuni National Park / Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

    Amazon: Yasuni National Park / Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

    Board a motorized canoe and head onto the Napo River to reach a remote river that leads us to a pristine igapo-blackwater lagoon and riverine system located in the narrow gap between Ecuador's two largest protected areas in the Amazon: Yasuni National Park and Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. Yasuní National Park is as UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve covering roughly 2.5 million acres of wetlands, swamps, marshes, lakes, rivers and dry land forests. Close to 600 different types of birds can be found within the park — a third of all known Amazon bird species. Yasuni is also home to 170 mammals, 560 fish species, close to 300 different reptile and amphibian creatures and thousands of plant varieties. While paddling through the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, we may observe fisher bats snatching fish from the lakes or spot huge ringed kingfishers on their riverside perches. The reserve is known for its prolific creatures such as tapirs, ocelots, jaguars, pumas, capybaras, poison dart frogs, agoutis, iguanas and monk sakis. Swimming through the waters are Charapa turtles, pink freshwater dolphins, giant otters, manatees, five species of caiman and nearly 500 different species of fish — including infamous piranha. Birding enthusiasts should watch for Cocoi heron, red-capped cardinal, chestnut-fronted macaw, black-headed parrot and blue-crowned trogon. Return to the lodge and enjoy the afternoon at leisure. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    7

    Amazon: Pilchicocha Lake

    Amazon: Pilchicocha Lake

    Early this morning, board boats to explore the waterways where we have the opportunity to see the squirrel monkey, white belled spider monkey and vibrant birdlife. Head to the canopy trail for spectacular views of the rainforest. The canopy walkway is 100 feet high and 900 feet long, giving you a bird’s-eye-view of life in the rich rainforest canopy. This afternoon join your naturalist guide for piranha fishing or relax at the lodge. Keep in mind, piranhas will never attack a person and swimming at the same time is perfectly safe and fun! After dinner, you have the option of another night walk or canoe ride. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    8

    Amazon / Quito / Papallacta Hot Springs

    Amazon / Quito / Papallacta Hot Springs

    Enjoy a peaceful morning transfer by boat to Coca before flying to Quito. Drive to the Papallacta Hot Springs. Check in to our accommodations at Termas de Papallacta. The entire afternoon is at leisure to relax in the hot springs or build your “life list” while birding in the Ecuadorian Andes. The altitude and location in humid upper-montain rainforest makes the Papallacta area cool and wet, contrasting to the steaming hot thermal baths. The pools of Papallacta are framed by dramatic, jagged peaks and on a clear day you may even catch a glimpse of the gigantic Antisana volcano. The scenery around Papallacta is some of the most spectacular wilderness that Ecuador has to offer. Around Papallacta there is an abundance of Andean wildlife. Condors inhabit this area and are seen from time to time soaring overhead. Lucky observers have even spotted Andean spectacled bear and tapirs. White-tailed deer and birds such as mountain-tanagers, Andean snipe, sword-billed hummingbird, glowing pufflegs, mountain avocetbill and hawks are commonplace. You can watch for all of this wildlife on a naturalist-guided afternoon hike. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    9

    Papallacta Hot Springs / Quito

    Papallacta Hot Springs / Quito

    Drive back to Quito for a walking tour of the city. Filled with colonial cathedrals and monasteries, Quito offers an opportunity to savor true colonial architecture. In Independence Plaza, admire the Presidential Palace, Municipal Building, Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral. La Compania was built by the Jesuits as a replica of Il Bessu in Rome. The San Francisco Plaza served as the main Tianguez (market) during pre-Inca times, and now the church and monastery form the largest colonial building in the Americas. This afternoon, meet a local expert for an enriching lecture and chat about environmental issues in Ecuador. After a festive farewell dinner, spend tonight at the Hotel Patio Andaluz. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    10

    Depart Quito

    Depart Quito

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your independent flights home. (B, Meals Aloft)

Mataraya Park Tour

  • Day
    1

    Quito / Manta

    Fly from Quito to Manta or Portoviejo. You will be met by one of our qualified staff members and transferred by car to Machalilla National Park (a 3 hour drive). On the road, we will stop to visit the legendary Panama hat makers of Montecristi, where you will learn about the fascinating history and art of this notable coast town weaving tradition. We continue to Machalilla National Park through roads that will that offer splendid views of coastal Manabí, one of Ecuador’s largest and most spirited provinces. Upon your arrival at Mantaraya Lodge, a superb lunch will be waiting. In the afternoon, our naturalist leader will present to you a range of activities and options from which to choose. You can either sunbathe at the beach, venture into a fishing village, or hike through an exceptional humid forest to experience your first encounter with the area’s vegetation and wildlife. After dinner, you may attend an introductory briefing on Machalilla National Park and the next day’s activities.

  • Day
    2

    Machalilla National Park

    Machalilla National Park

    It is time to discover the wonders of Machalilla National Park. Located in the heart of the park, the village of Agua Blanca offers you the opportunity to admire the archeological remains of the one-time dominant Salango Chiefdom, which belonged to the Manteño civilizations. With the help of various organizations, the community of Agua Blanca (no larger than 400 inhabitants) has created several projects to rescue the archeological ruins and improve administration of their tourism activities. There is a great number of activities in the area for you enjoy:

    • Visit the Agua Blanca archeological museum to learn about pre-Columbian cultures, the local way of life and the natural history of the area.
    • Hike around the archeological site through a path that offers the possibility of encountering the nature and wildlife of this very particular deciduous forest. You may choose to visit and enjoy the water springs. The hiking distance and time of visit are at our guest’s discretion.
    • For more adventure-seeking guests, explore the San Sebastian Cloudforest on horseback. Trails designed by the locals will take you through deciduous and semi-deciduous forests into cloudforest at an elevation of around 800m. The tour offers the opportunity to observe tropical birds, plants, insects, reptiles and occasional mammals at different altitudinal levels. This is also an excellent tour for bird lovers (please inquire so we can adjust the schedule*)
    • We can arrange a bike ride through the Buena Vista Valley dirt road (about 5 Km), departing from the entrance road to Agua Blanca and arriving at the archeological museum. The ride gives you the opportunity to be in close contact with the deciduous tropical forest enjoying nature and people’s way of living.
    • The tougher option is to take the Julcuy road departing from the Buena Vista Valley for 40 Km ride that ends along the Jipijapa-Guayaquil highway, where our van will be waiting to transfer us back to the hotel.

    After dinner, our excursion leader will give a briefing about the activities that will take place the next day, and if you are interested, a presentation regarding a special topic on Machalilla National Park. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    3

    Machalilla National Park: Isla de la Plata

    Machalilla National Park: Isla de la Plata

    Explore the wonders at sea, as we head to Isla de la Plata. Isla de la Plata is an outstanding wildlife sanctuary for seabirds and other marine life. Our sea adventure begins at Puerto Lopez’s harbor where we embark on Mantaraya’s private yacht. Navigation to the island may last about one and half hours. There are several activities you can complete during this full day tour. You can hike along trails on the island with our naturalist guide to learn more about the natural, geological and cultural history of Isla de La Plata. You can decide to take either the long or short trail. There is also plenty of time to go snorkeling and observe an interesting marine ecosystem around Drake’s Bay. If you just want to swim and relax on the beach, you will have the opportunity to do so as well. A box lunch and water is offered during the excursion. In the afternoon, our boat will take us back to Puerto Lopez where our private van will be waiting to transfer us back to Mantaraya Lodge. After dinner, our excursion leader will offer a briefing on the activities for the next day. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    4

    Machalilla National Park: Los Frailes

    Machalilla National Park: Los Frailes

    The rocky cliffs, bays, and wide beaches of southern Manabí are incredibly alluring. Tour the pristine white sand beach of Los Frailes, one of three major protected sites where Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles nest between January and May. The gorgeous beaches at Los Frailes are separated by tropical coastal scrub vegetation and eroded headlands. While here you may: 

    • Walk through a natural trail cutting through deciduous scrubland and reaches the seashore, offering an exceptional coastline view and access to the three beaches.
    • Savor the beach, relaxing or walking the natural paths and trails. Swim in these warm equatorial waters, or maybe snorkel and enjoy the lively marine world down under.

    Our excursion leader will bring you to the small fishing village of Salango. This small town, located south of Puerto Lopez, has an interesting archaeological museum with samples collected at different sites inside and out of Machalilla National Park. In addition, the museum exhibits in chronological order the archeological ceramic vestiges of cultures that inhabited coastal Ecuador over 5,000 years ago.The community at Salango is involved in a project called the marine parcel, which is a shallow area located between Salango Hill and Salango Islet where you can snorkel, scuba dive, and practice fishing. After dinner, our excursion leader will offer a briefing on the activities that will take place the next day. (B,L,D)

  • Day
    5

    Machalilla National Park / Depart

    Machalilla National Park / Depart

    Explore the tropical cloud forest, seeing over 20 different bird species, learning about the local flora, and discovering this distinct ecosystem. After lunch, depart for other parts of Ecuador or to board your independent flight home. (B,L)

Call 800.234.9620
Duration
10 Days, 9 Nights
Trip Type
Land